A/N: This is the final fic in the "This Crazy thing Called Love" (Kuma) Arc. Pairings: Sess/OC, Inu/Kag, Mir/San

Well guys, from my least famous story arc comes the (if all goes according to plan) final story of Kuma! Although, the idea of Naraku having a daughter intrigues me, so some variations of the basic character may appear in other stories. Maybe.

With "Love Like Water" Ifelt that I was explaining some holes left over from "Before there was You," but I also felt that I was starting to feel bad for/understand Naraku a little through that story. It was strange, because Naraku has always been the evil anime villan who made the least sense to me, so writing him was very difficult. But, even in death, Naraku exerts his will and causes trouble, because he's Naraku and he can, and it is with this in mind that I am beginning "In Cold Blood" (Standard Disclaimers Apply.)He had

In Cold Blood

by: Banshee Puppet

Chapter One: Brat Prince

He had returned to the Western Lands in silence, not with a flourish or the red flash that came with Toukjin cutting through bare flesh, but at night, in the dark, with no one to watch his pitiful round of the halls before returning to his room.

In the morning, he entered the dining room with the frosty nobility that had once been so commonplace for him, and would be still, if not for the fact that he had fallen out of the habit of it. His servants had grown more accustomed as late to the way he'd smirk, only very slightly, and hold 'debates' with the hanyou, Kuma, in which he would take the opposing side on an issue not because he disagreed particularly but because she was wrong, but just to watch her get irritated and flustered. Then later, awkward silences as he tried to please her and they found things between them that could not be surmounted.

But many months had passed, and Sesshomaru appeared much his old self. It had been weeks like this. When finally Jaken asked about 'Lady Kuma', thinking 'that hanyou wench', Sesshomaru had said nothing that answered the question. "Rin, stop playing with the curtain and come eat your breakfast," he stated instead.

It had been two months, and even Rin had learned not to mention his former lover anymore. Hah, lover, that was a joke. She was more his...what was it that miko girl of his brother's called it...girlfriend. It was because they had never mated, and idly Sesshomaru wondered if that had, perhaps, been the barrier between them, that nervousness, always wondering when they would be ready to cross that bridge together(though he'd personally had to force himself not to by some supreme force of will many times).

But no. No, it had been nothing so menial as that, he was certain. What they couldn't overcome was family. 'Naraku's daughter,' he mused. 'How did she think I would react? I did not grow fond of her heritage; it was her that I desired, and no one else. And that has not changed.'

She sat at the base of the old tree, hands bloody, staring with empty eyes at the corpse. 'Bird of Paradise,' her mind echoed hollowly. Her veins were singing, her senses painfully heightened. "Stop skulking in the shadows. If you intend to follow me around, then do it openly," Kuma complained.

Kagura and Kanna emerged from the bushes. A slight gleam of sweat rested on Kagura's brow. 'Damn Naraku. I thought when he died we would finally be free, but my heart is still...' "If you want to be left alone, then give my heart back to me," she demanded of the hanyou.

"I already told you that I don't know how!" Kuma snapped.

'Even so,' Kagura thought, 'being bound to this girl is not as bad. Her emotions and thoughts are easy to read and she lets me do as I please. She's straight forward to the point of idiocy sometimes...It's just that when she's fighting I...I feel as if I might die.'

"Kouga, are you sure about this?" Ever since his wounds from the battle with Ajika had healed, his friends followed him everywhere. It slowed him down, but he was glad enough to have the company.

"Stop whining!" he complained.

"But Kouga..."

"Shut up already. I know what I'm doing." He took a deep breath when no one was looking. 'I am so going to get my ass kicked,' he thought dryly. "You guys stay there," he told them before closing the distance between himself and Sesshomaru's castle. It was easy to speed past the servants, but Kouga stopped abruptly to the could Toukjin a half-inch from his throat and a pair of glaring, golden eyes. "What do you want?" Sesshomaru demanded.

"Well, not having an evil sword at my throat would be great for starters," Kouga commented flippantly.

At first, Sesshomaru only pressed the blade closer upon the ballsy wolf youkai, but in disgust and no mood to kill, Sesshomaru lowered the blade. The Western Lord did not sheathe Toukjin however, as if daring the wolf prince to say something he didn't like.

"I'm tracking Kuma," Kouga began. A low growl escaped Sesshomaru's throat. "Wanna come?" the wolf offered up quickly, then added arrogantly, "if you think you can keep up." He had to save face, after all. He had a reputation to uphold.

"Why would I want to travel with a brat prince like you?" Sesshomaru returned just as arrogantly, not deeming any comments about his speed worthy of reply.

"Well, she's your woman, isn't she?"

'My woman?' A sadly wistful expression entered his eyes. If only that were true, then he would have an excuse for this hollow feeling in his chest, and the way Rin cried when he didn't answer her questions about Kuma's long-awaited return.

"Kuma only belongs to Kuma. That has always been true," Sesshomaru replied distantly.

"But you tolerate that mutt brother of yours because of her." Sesshomaru didn't answer. "And you called after her, you know, that time." ('And you cried,' he thought, but he wasn't suicidal and decided not to say this.) "And you carried her scent on you. Isn't she your mate?"

"No."

"Not your woman, not your mate, obviously more than a friend. What is that stupid girl to you, Sesshomaru?" Kouga, to be quite frank, didn't get it.

Sesshomaru didn't know how to answer, until finally, he gave the cryptic reply, "she was a daydream, nothing more. You're best to feel the same."

"No friggin' way!" Kouga demanded. "She may be a lonely, emotionally retarded half-breed of a wench, and Naraku's (that bastard's) kid, but she's still my friend, and I'm not gonna let her go get herself killed just because she's a little upset. Geez, forget I bothered. I thought you cared, my mistake." Kouga huffed, ready to leave.

In a swift motion though, he was stopped by a hand on his shoulder, and turned to find Toukjin sheathed and the barest hint of concern in the Western Lord's eyes. "She is in trouble?"

Kouga smirked as if asking 'are you kidding me?' "She's Kuma," he answered with a vague shrug. 'She's been in trouble since the beginning.'

"You know something," Sesshomaru stated more than asked.

"Did you think word about who she is would stay quiet forever? Seriously, I can handle the wolf tribe, but everyone else is pissed. Beside's she's still carrying around that devil sword, right? It leaves the stench of thick blood behind it."

"It is only a sword."

"And she's not you. She won't be able to control it forever, or tame it like you tamed Toukjin. Haven't you thought about it? Geez, I thought you were a smart guy."

"Stop evading the subject. Speak plainly," Sesshomaru demanded.

Kouga rolled his eyes. Now that Toukjin wasn't staring him in the face, he was much more himself. "Naraku's daughter has a sword named Kagura which attacks in the shadow of the wind. Hell of a coincidence isn't it?"

Sesshomaru's eyes widened. 'Kagura.' He'd never thought of it . "I commissioned that sword."

'Hah! So she is your woman!' Kouga thought triumphantly. 'Or you want her to be.' "Really? Then I must be imagining things. Even so, that sword will devour a girl like her."

"Her scent," Sesshomaru demanded, and it was obvious that he was asking where the wolf had last smelled it.

"I haven't found it yet, but that kid passed by here probably a day ago. I'll bet he's following her."

Sesshomaru's eyes narrowed. What kid was he talking about?

"You know, that zombie kid, Kohaku or something. I think maybe Kuma—I'm not sure, but these bonds of blood seem to be stronger than most, but she's mostly youkai anyway, so I guess it figures. It's not like that half-bred brother of yours."

Sesshomaru had heard enough. The wolf seemed to be implying that she'd adapted powers similar to if not the same as Naraku's own. He began walking away, but Kouga would have none of it. "Hey, where the hell're you...?!"

"Rin," Sesshomaru stated from the open doorway he'd just entered. "Get dressed. We are leaving in five minutes."

"Yes Lord Sesshomaru," the human child's voice piped up. "Are we going to go see Kuma now?"

"That is my intention," he informed the girl, who then tackled his legs happily before going to change out of her pajamas while rambling on in quick, happy tones of which only every third word was discernable.

Sesshomaru's eyes warmed to the sight of the happy child, but Kouga didn't know him well enough to notice. Instead, he thoughtlessly crowed, "Hah! I knew she was your woman!"

Sesshomaru gave him a warning look. "Yes," he admitted. "She...was."

"Pah! I didn't think you were the type for giving up so easily."

Sesshomaru's eyes widened only slightly. The wolf brat was right, and he was loathe to admit it. He was right just the same as the monk had been right. Why had it taken so much trauma for the inuyoukai to see it? No, the answer was obvious—because Kuma was not land to be claimed or a demon to be slain, the dining room curtains to choose—she was a woman, and when it came to the fairer sex, Sesshomaru's intelligence had always abandoned him. Now he realized that he should approach this problem like he approached everything else, ready for battle and taking no prisoners. She would not walk away from him again.

'All of those ridiculous poets were right,' he thought. 'Love and war really are the same, and war is something I understand all too well.'

As he donned his armor, waited on the porch for Rin to join him and the wolf prince Kouga of the North, Sesshomaru asked, "What is the nature of your relations with my woman, wolf?"

Kouga smirked to himself. 'This guy...'

"She's...well, I guess that Kuma is my best friend. Yeah, I think that's sort of right. She's the friend I chose to have not because of who she is, but in spite of it. That's why...well, that's just why, is all."

'Then she is lucky to have such a friend, so willing to risk his life for her safety,' Sesshomaru thought, smiling inwardly. 'It is for her sake, then, that I will tolerate you, wolf.'

The human girl tackled his legs from behind. He didn't seem to notice, as he'd become so accustomed to such behavior from the girl. "Lord Sesshomaru!" she cheered. "Rin is soo excited! Rin can't wait to see Kuma again. Will Kuma be happy to see Rin too?"

"Of course she will!" Kouga answered for him. He knew that Sesshomaru had no intention of answering for himself anyway. "I have it on good authority that you're her favorite little ankle-biter."

"Rin does not bite ankles," the girl protested.

"Nevermind," Kouga said. Explaining Kuma's strange phrases was more trouble than it was worth. Heck, having them explained was bad enough, but as a result of knowing her, he had adopted many of her peculiar phrases.

Kouga made them wait a moment while he told his companions that yes, in fact, he was still quite alive and planning on staying that way before sending them home.

"And onward!" he announced, ready to continue the search. 'We're coming, Kuma, so hang on a while longer. I'm sure that you can, because you're Kuma, and you're as strong as your name suggests,' he thought. 'And I believe in you, so don't you dare die.'

THUD! The sound of Sango hitting Miroku with hiraikotsu...again.

"Ugh." He got up and snaked his arms around the demon exterminator's waist, resting his chin on her shoulder. "So mean," he protested, tilting her chin up with newly bared hands and planting tiny kisses along her jaw.

"Miroku!" Sango blushed furiously and complained about his attentions.

"What?" he asked innocently. "No one is looking. You're so shy, Sango."

Finally, with a defeated sigh, the woman turned around in his arms. He pressed his bare palm to her cheek and brought their lips together, his free hand snaking down to cup her bottom. "Mm. I love you, you know," he whispered sexily. It was like a dream. No longer worrying about his wind tunnel after Naraku's death, he was free to pursue the youkai exterminator in earnest, and she had, after weeks of abuse, finally given in to his advances.

"You love anything with breasts," Sango retorted, not really protesting as much as putting on the usual act of it for sake of her female honor, or some such ridiculous thing.

"Mnhmn, but I love your breasts the most," he cooed, sliding a hand up to cup one of the fleshy mounds before getting slapped and knocked to the ground. "Pervert!" she complained.

"You love me anyway though, right?" he asked, yanking her down into the grass with him.

"Yes, Gods help me. I love you, Miroku."

Grinning, he kissed her cheek. "Good. I'm glad."

"If you two are done sucking face, Kagome is due back today. Inuyasha went ahead to the well."

The new lovers jumped at the sound of Shippo's voice. The kitsune simply rolled his eyes; everywhere he turned these days there were kisses and loving, secret whispers. Nothing had ever felt so lonely before. He thought back often now to the days, so long ago now, when Kuma had first fallen through the well. 'Things were so fun then, even hunting jewel shards, everyone was always laughing. I miss that.' Oh, they were happy now, mostly. Naraku was dead. They still sought the jewel shards, but it was no longer the rush against time that it had once been.

But Shippo also remembered the day ...that, well, that day, when Sesshomaru shed two silent tears against Rin's warm shoulder and whispered his love's name. That Sesshomaru could look like that...that even Sesshomaru could look like that, feel that kind of grief and longing—it disturbed the Kitsune boy. 'That creepy guy should never look sad. This love thing, I don't think I'll ever understand it.'

When a guy who fought so hard and skillfully for things that meant little or nothing to him just let something that important, that precious to him, get up and walk away...

Not only did Shippo not understand it, but he didn't want to.

End Ch. 1

A/N: as I was writing this chapter, I got the idea for a Kouga/Kuma story. Weird? Hah, maybe, maybe not? I figure the other pairings would be the norm: Inu/Kag, Mir/San, and for Sess...maybe Kagura? stupid? I dunno it might be fun to try.